Here at UBI, we’ve been teaching folks how to build bicycle frames for decades. It’s one of the coolest things any cyclist could ever do for themselves, and is also an amazingly challenging, rewarding career path.

Every time we teach a frame class, the instructor builds a demonstration frame to allow students to see the next step, and pick up helpful tips and techniques along the way.

Periodically, however, even the most seasoned of frame builders can struggle to find inspiration when charged with building 10-12 frames per year with no specific rider in mind – so, often, the teachers will reach out to other staff members for ideas – which that UBI staffer then gets to integrate into their personal quiver.

This is the first in a series of articles detailing one such bike – each inspired by one key unusual component for the entire build.
The Roller Cam Brake.


Richard Belson's roller cam beauty freshly built and ready to ride.

The Component:

This lugged steel vintage-styled mountain bike all started with a NOS set of 1986 Suntour XC Roller Cam brakes that UBI Portland Instructor Richard Belson acquired over 15 years ago and has been saving (hoarding?) for the “right project.”.

“When my name came up for a frame in a Portland brazing class,, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to build around the brakes.” he said.

“Roller cams have a reputation among veteran mechanics for being unwieldy and, thankfully long-since out-dated – so what better component to build a concept bike around?!”

Once the brakes were decided upon, and their under-chainstay location firmly established, Richard and frame instructor Rich Bernoulli had to decide on a design.

Chainstay“Once Rich told me he was OK with my idea, I drew inspiration from my old Tom Teesdale-built Fisher Mount Tam for geometry, and combined the classic 1987 adventure bike geometry with a Vintage Henry James MTB lugset we have on the shelf – but, of course, I had to take it another step further. “

Instead of simply creating a carbon copy of an old mountain bike with new tubing, the bike was designed with 650b wheels – as though 26” wheels never happened.

The resulting adjustment in front end geometry to accommodate for the increase in wheel size, as well as the one-off Pacenti-crowned custom MTB fork somehow created a bike that looks and handles as though is comes right out of the early days of mountain biking.

“I went (surprise surprise) full retro. 130mm OLD for the 18-speed Deore XT group, Velo Orange 650 rims and those Roller Cams really keep with the era the bike is inspired by. It’s a blast to ride, and Rich did an amazing job putting it together! All I need to do now is find some tan-walled 650x2.1 tires for it!”

Click Here for more pictured of this one-off build inspired by one vintage, unique component.

To build your own one off, inspired frame, check out United Bicycle Instuitute's range of frame building classes and schedule your opportunity today!